Saturday, 8 November 2014

Obama to deploy 1,500 more troops to Iraq

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President Barack Obama is authorizing the U.S. military to deploy up to 1,500 more troops to Iraq as part of the mission to combat ISIL.

Obama is also asking Congress for more than $5 billion to help fund the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) armed group.

The White House says the additional troops won't serve in combat, but will train, advise and assist Iraqi military and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL. Of the funding requested from Congress, $1.6 billion would go to the "Iraq Train and Equip" fund.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama has also authorized the additional personnel to operate at Iraqi military facilities outside Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Until now, U.S. troops have been operating a joint operation center together with Iraqi forces in Baghdad.

Earnest’s announcement came just after Obama met with congressional leaders Friday.

While U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq have taken a toll on ISIL fighters, they have not yet significantly deterred the armed group’s armed offensive across the region.

Obama continues to take heat for his plans to train and equip Syria's "moderate" rebels, who are the weakest faction on the ground in the country's civil war. The Syrian opposition says the fight against ISIL has distracted the U.S. from what they say was already been a half- hearted effort to unseat the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Compared with Syria, the U.S. has more viable partners on the ground in Iraq – the Iraqi military and Kurdish forces – but there is growing concern that some hardline Shia militias loyal to Iran are gaining in influence by taking to the frontlines against the Sunni ISIL fighters.

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